terminology tuesday, theme days

Terminology Tuesday: sed rate

Today we’re going to look at what exactly a sed rate is.

The term sed rate is thrown around a lot in autoimmune or autoinflammatory communities, so it’s really an important one to wrap your head around.

You may see sed rate listed one of many ways – sedimentation rate, westergren sed(imentation) rate, erythrocye sed(imentation) rate, or ESR. It’s all the same thing, which is nice. In short, this is one way to monitor the level of inflammation in your body. As you can see in the graphic above, the higher the sed rate, the higher the inflammation.

This isn’t disease specific, which rocks and sucks all at once. It rocks because this test can be used to help monitor and treat SO many people. It sucks because, well, infections and other acute illnesses can cause high inflammation levels too. I got a call from my rheumy in March when I had bronchitis (before it was actually diagnosed) because my levels were crazy high and she was worried. Things like being full o’ babies or female or anemic can affect it too.

The pill can up the levels too. So that’s fun. Remind me to ask about birth control alternatives.

Do you ever wonder how these tests are really done though?

So do I!

Lab peeps stick your blood in these crazy tall tubes. When I was studying chemistry I totally broke one. It’s not easy, but clearly that didn’t stop me!!


Your blood gets placed in these tubes and checked on after an hour. Your red blood cells eventually sink to the bottom, which happens even faster if you have high inflammation levels. Basically the test is like one of those race games at the fair… except not one you want to win.

Hopefully you don’t bust the tube!

The faster your cells hit the bottom of the tube, the higher inflammation you have.

Because the test only takes an hour, it’s a quick one that generally isn’t costly either. If you live with a rheumatic/autoimmune/autoinflammatory disease, you likely have this test monthly. It’s a great way to measure general inflammation but, again, isn’t so great for certain people or for telling you where the inflammation is. My guess is, though, that you can usually figure that one out.

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